Dentists’ prescribing of antibiotics and opioids to Medicare Part D beneficiaries: Medications of high impact to public health

Laura Koppen, Katie J. Suda*, Susan Rowan, Jessina McGregor, Charlesnika T. Evans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Gaining a better understanding of dental prescribing can help identify opportunities for intervention regarding optimal medication use. The purpose of this study is to characterize opioid and antibiotic prescribing patterns of dentists in the United States for Medicare Part D beneficiaries. Methods: The authors conducted a retrospective cross-sectional analysis of national 2014 Medicare Part D Prescriber Public Use File data. Providers in the data set with dental-related disciplines were included (n = 99,797). Outcomes of interest were mean days’ supply and mean number of claims reported per claim, beneficiary, and prescriber discipline. Results: Of the 6,724,372 dental prescription claims submitted, 3,947,848 (58.7%) and 1,312,796 (19.5%) were for antibiotics and opioids, respectively. Sixty-nine percent of dentists in the highest quartile of opioid prescribers were also in the highest quartile of antibiotic prescribers (r2 = 0.7778; P <.01). The mean (standard deviation) days’ supply per claim was 6.9 (5.3) days (range, 1-90 days) for antibiotics and 3.6 (2.0) days (range, 1-44.5 days) for opioids. Of the 33,348 dental providers who prescribed opioids, 18,971 (56.9%) prescribed a mean opioid days per claim greater than the recommended duration of 3 days for acute pain. Conclusion: Opioids and antibiotics are the medications most prescribed by dentists. On the basis of national recommendations and results of studies from other countries, the length of therapy prescribed may be excessive. Further studies should be conducted to assess appropriateness of dental prescriptions. Practical Implications: Dentistry should be considered for antibiotic and opioid stewardship interventions along with medicine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)721-730
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Dental Association
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Antibiotics
  • dentistry
  • opioids
  • prophylaxis
  • treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)

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